A new study examines the use of biogas – gas produced from organic waste – as an energy source in Europe, and shows that it has not yet reached its full potential. As the EU works towards its ambitious energy and climate targets for 2020 and 2030, biogas can be a flexible and sustainable alternative source of energy, which supports energy security and greenhouse gas emission reduction in electricity, heating and transport. However, in some EU countries the absence of policies promoting biogas means that currently its full potential is not being used.
The study makes a number of recommendations for maximising the potential of biogas in Europe. It includes a call to create a long -term policy framework for the development of the biogas sector that also encompasses related areas, such as agriculture and waste management. In addition to creating a stable investment framework, several regulatory and technical barriers also still need to be addressed, including those hampering cross-border energy trade. The study also strongly recommends making more use of residual heat from biogas installations, and informing citizens about local biogas projects, their benefits, and safety guidelines.
In 2014, 14.9 mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) of biogas was produced in the EU: this represented about 7.6% of all primary renewable energy production in the EU. It was mainly used for renewable electricity production, followed by heat production and use as a transport fuel. The study examines the potential role, costs and benefits of biogas and the role that it could play in helping the EU to meet its targets of increased use of renewable energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 2030. It sets out four scenarios covering possible developments in the use of biogas in the EU by 2030. These show the different possible options for the use of biogas in cogeneration units (which convert it into heat and electricity directly) or for its upgrade to biomethane to be fed into the gas grid or to be used as a transport fuel. It also examines the barriers preventing the development of biogas markets: at the moment, only three countries (Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom) are responsible for more than 77% of the EU’s biogas production. The absence of a stable and reliable investment framework and lack of effective support are identified as key obstacles.